QB Jeremy Johnson sets huge goal before Auburn names starter
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn just wants to figure out his starting quarterback for 2015.
Jeremy Johnson just wants to best Cam Newton for greatest season ever by an Auburn quarterback.
That’s a rhetorical chasm as wide as the Grand Canyon. What gives?
After bragging about a reported 4.51-second 40-yard dash recently, Johnson told the SEC Network he wants to throw for more than 3,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000, a feat that only five FBS quarterbacks have ever accomplished: Colin Kaepernick, Vince Young, Johnny Manziel, Dan LeFevour and Chandler Harnish.
Malzahn repeatedly has praised the progress of backup Sean White and re-enforced, at least publicly, that Johnson won’t necessarily start for Auburn this fall.
Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee reiterated that message to reporters after Tuesday’s practice.
“(Johnson and White) did fine (during Saturday’s scrimmage), they did their job, but is it at a potential championship level?” Lashlee said, according to AL.com. “(I want) guys who are going to go out and win the football game.”
The winner of the competition is in line for some huge numbers, as Malzahn’s historical numbers indicate. Nick Marshall, who has been forced to return to defensive back in an attempt to get an NFL team to draft him, threw for 2,532 yards and rushed for 798 in 2014.
Lashlee said Tuesday that Johnson’s ability to perform as a read-option runner depends on making good decisions. Whereas Marshall could “be wrong and make it right … on the perimeter, Jeremy is a lot better North-South.” But as a passer, especially with Duke Williams returning, Johnson has a good chance to supplant Marshall’s production.
The Tigers hit on 24 passing plays of more than 30 yards last season, placing the team 25th in the country and well behind No. 1 Baylor (39). Get that number above 30 and Johnson and Williams could break all sorts of records in ’15.
“Expecting some big things from those two guys, probably break all the passing records this year, break all of my records, but that’s fine,” receivers coach and former Auburn quarterback Dameyune Craig said, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
“I told (offensive coordinator) Rhett (Lashlee) every time a passing record gets broken it’s still my record because I coached the receivers. … That’s not a lot of yards. I’ve thrown 3,000 yards, I’ve done it a couple of times in my career. Overseas over in (NFL) Europe, done it at Auburn, that’s not a lot of yards.”
Craig is the only Auburn coach aligning with Johnson with his words. But White recently spoke to an Opelika-Auburn News as if he’s expecting to back up Johnson during the season:
You got to be ready. Only one quarterback plays, but the second quarterback has to be ready at any moment because if that quarterback goes down, you got to come in and lead the offense; you can’t miss a step. … You just need to come in and be ready to go and always be ready, no matter how cold you are.
All signs point to Johnson as “the man.” So why are the coaches being so hesitant and cautious with the media? It’s hard to know without being embedded with the coaches or players, but Lashlee hinted the staff may think Johnson should get his priorities in order before dreaming about Heisman Trophies.
“Jeremy needs to worry about winning the job and being the best he can be right now,” Lashlee said. “I do like that you set high goals for yourself; that’s what you want. You don’t want a guy saying, ‘Man, I’ll throw for 1,000 yards and rush for 10.’ He’s capable. … There’s a lot of work that’s going to go into that.”